Opinion

Ask Rustin: Is Jarrod Dyson ready to play right field?

Kansas City Royals right fielder Jarrod Dyson.
Kansas City Royals right fielder Jarrod Dyson. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

As the calendar barrels toward February, as the countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting sits at 22 days, as the Royals FanFest hits town this weekend, the mailbag is back with a new beat writer at the controls and a slew of questions from Royals fans. So let’s just get to it.

As spring training approaches, the Royals have just two positions with various degrees of intrigue: Second base and right field. Omar Infante will have another chance to prove himself at second base. Likewise, Jarrod Dyson will have an opportunity to show he can handle regular duty in right field. Dyson, 31, has never had more than 330 plate appearances in six seasons in Kansas City. He batted .250 with a .311 on-base percentage and .691 OPS in 2015. He also swiped 26 bases and was caught stealing just three times.

He will make $1.725 million this season after agreeing to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. He will be eligible for free agency after the 2017 season. The Royals appear ready to offer a more significant role for Dyson.

“We think it’s time for Dyson to get an opportunity to play a lot more,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said at the winter meetings.

The Royals have not used the word “platoon,” but it appears likely that the left-handed hitting Dyson will be the appealing choice to start against right-handed pitchers (Dyson OPS’d .715 against righties in 2015) while the right-handed hitting Paulo Orlando could see time against left-handed pitching. As an astute reader points out, asking whether Dyson is ready to play right field might also be the wrong way to think of the question. Dyson and Orlando could also see time in center field, allowing Lorenzo Cain to rest his legs in right. If nothing else, both Dyson and Orlando will be a defensive upgrade over Alex Rios.

Sam and I discussed this on the podcast on Tuesday. For the moment — until I do some more reporting on the subject — I will defer to Sam.

Yordano Ventura and Edinson Volquez will sit at the top of the rotation — there are arguments for each to start opening day; Ian Kennedy appears right behind; Kris Medlen could be headed for the fourth slot; and the fifth spot could come down to a competition between Chris Young and Danny Duffy.

In some ways, of course, it does not matter whether it is Young or Duffy. Both will likely log time in both the rotation and bullpen in 2016. Young saved the Royals’ rotation from injury during the first half of 2015. He then turned into a masterful postseason performance. But at age 36, he does not profile as a pitcher who will be counted on to make 30-plus starts.

I noticed this, too. Feb. 18.

I am not. This is always a hard thing to explain or elucidate to people who haven’t written about sports for a living, but I’ll put it like this: Covering sports will slowly and methodically drain the sports fandom from your soul.

Now, I grew up outside Kansas City. I spent much of my childhood at Kauffman Stadium. I remember the astroturf and the ridiculously tall walls with the black stripe at the top. I remember Tom Goodwin being insanely fast and Bip Roberts being surprisingly productive for a short time. I remember seeing Sammy Sosa hit two home runs at Kauffman Stadium when the Cubs came to Kansas City, and I remember crowding around a radio at high school baseball practice during opening day in 2004, listening to both the Carlos Beltran and Mendy Lopez home runs.

But do I care who wins the games I write about? After six years of writing about sports, including covering the college I attended, I do not. Like I said, it’s hard to explain.

That’s not to say you don’t have moments of sports joy, that you’re not awed by the athleticism or sheer moments of awesomeness, but it’s just different. These days, I tend to consume sports in two specific ways — the story and the aesthetic. The story is the story; that’s obvious. The aesthetic is that visceral feeling you get by watching Lorenzo Cain track down a ball in the gap or Steph Curry launch a three-pointer on a dime in transition. That feeling can be intensified by fandom, of course, but it really has nothing to do with it. Sometimes, the performance is enough.

In interest of full disclosure: This is one of those questions I am not equipped to answer after a few days on the beat.

Fuentes, 24, is a left-handed hitting outfielder who batted .308/.360/.422 in 107 games at Class AAA Omaha in 2015. A former first-round pick in 2009, he played in 26 games for San Diego in 2013.

Starling, 23, is entering his fifth full season in the organization after being drafted No. 5 overall in 2011. Last season, he hit .269/.337/.448 while splitting time between Class A Wilmington and Class AA Northwest Arkansas. Neither player projects to be on the opening-day roster, and considering Fuentes has already made his big-league debut, he is probably close to the bigs, whatever that means.

The Royals, though, appear open to the idea that Starling could make his big-league debut this season. His defense, according to reports, is already major-league ready.

Finally, here is one thing to keep in mind about Starling: For all the discussion about his slow development, he won’t turn 24 until August. Why is that important? Lorenzo Cain made his major-league debut at age 24 and didn’t play a full season in the big leagues until age 27. He finished third in the AL MVP voting last season.

It does. But on the whole, I am glad my last name is not Rodd.

Man, I could go so many ways here, but over the last few days, I keep thinking about the World Series victory parade. I live near downtown, just a mile or so from The Star’s building, so instead of trying to drive into the masses, I put on some basketball shorts and a sweatshirt and jogged to 18th and Grand. The streets were already packed by then; people were hanging off the side of a gas station across from The Star; more people were still parking in the River Market and trekking toward Union Station.

I’ve heard people say things similar to this, of course, but to see an entire city, people from every corner and every background, gathering in a downtown that was more or less a ghost town when I was growing up? It was something you don’t forget. This sounds cliche, but the whole reason I got into journalism was to write stories that connect with people. For so many reasons, the Royals are a story that connects. It’s a dream assignment.

Man, Andy has weird tastes, huh. Andy listened to so much Brand New during the 2014 playoffs that I actually grew to love “The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows”. We also went and saw the Wonder Years in Toronto after Game 4 of the ALCS last October. Good show. “Came out Swinging” was actually really great live. But in general terms, no, I stopped listening to emo music after “Clarity” and I stopped caring about wrestling in like 1999.

Later this week, once Kennedy completes a physical, likely before FanFest begins on Friday.

I do like BBQ. Here is some music.

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Rustin Dodd: 816-234-4937, @rustindodd

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